Angry Enough Yet?

I can’t shake my anger right now. Even Jesus got pissed off every now an then (that whole pulling out a whip and driving out the money changers from the temple thing).
I think about the extreme care gay rights activists went to in Memphis to protect the identity of Zach and his family, and then his dad goes public.

I am not the only one upset about this. You can read about it in blogsville. Ol Cranky at Disenchanted Forest writes about potential insurance fraud at Love in Action.

In his on-going careful telling of this tale Bruce Garrett weighs in too.

EJ in Memphis, TN, who has been with this story since the beginning, writes about Zach’s dad being a Model for Irresponible

Memphis-based Queer Action Coaltion (QAC) provides links to Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) along with an e-mail they had received from a CBN reporter working on the story.

Terrance at Gay Spirutality & Culture also provides link to an Agape news story about Zach’s dad’s comments.

Brady at Some Guys are Normal commenting on the stereotyping and slandering by of gay ment by Zach’s dad writes,

I’ve said this before, so maybe this should be the theme of my blog. If being gay is a sin, let it be a sin. But, don’t go around telling lies, half-truths, and perpetuating streotypes that make being gay (and gay people) this terrible monster that it isn’t (and they aren’t).

You can read some great comments about all this at Ex-gay Watch in the comment section of a VERY long interview of Love in Action director, John Smid, conducted by Anita Moyt of Family and Friends, a monthly gay magazine in Memphis and the surrounding areas.

Well, I feel a little better listing all these fine places where you can read thoughtful, passionate responses to this story. Now maybe I will do a little laundry and try watching a little more of season one of Angel. He is no Buffy, but he’ll do in a pinch.

This post has 8 Comments

  1. Willie Hewes on July 14, 2005 at 7:07 am Reply

    Thanks for all the links. I guess I’ll just refer people to you. 🙂

  2. Steven S. Bakos on July 14, 2005 at 7:43 am Reply

    First, allow me to apologize for the length my “comment” will undoubtedly be. Since learning of Zach’s story two weeks ago, it has greatly occupied my thoughts.

    Let me start with a little background information about myself; I too was a member of LIA’s live-in program back in 1994 when it was still in San Rafael, CA. Back then, first years were titled “Steps Out” members. At that time, I WAS the youngest male to have been granted acceptance into the program. I was 20 years old.

    I was raised in a Christian home, but was always the “problem” child of two other siblings. I came out to Father when I was only thirteen years old. That was in the 80’s, which given that time period and temperature of acceptance toward homosexuals, I thought was a little ballsy on my part  From that moment on, I went through the typical struggles, heartache, and deep seeded rejection one would experience trying to “grow-up gay” in a staunch Christian home. This lead to many of my adolescent years struggling with Emotional Dependency or “E.D.” (lol) towards other men. (Later realizing my “ED” was just an adverse reaction to being oppressed and forbidden to having healthy sexual and emotional relationships with other men)

    After battling internally throughout most of High School, and a number of seriously broken relationships with teenage boyfriends, my life came crashing down on me a year after graduating from High School when myself and the son of the pastor whose church I attended, became physically involved. He, of course, cracked and “confessed” his sins to his father (Pastor). Things literally snowballed from that point on. I truly loved God and could never understand WHY if being gay was a sin, had he made me this way?? Well, through some church friends advice, they recommended I contact LIA in CA. I did so and spoke with John Smid. He had advised me that, given my age, I would probably be better off joining a local support group rather than applying for the program. Sobbing and completely desperate, I told him I had nothing left and this was truly my last option. He agreed to send me an application packet and would pray for God’s leading regarding my acceptance.

    Well, exactly one month later, I was accepted into the 1994 “Steps Out” live in program. My family was, naturally, VERY supportive of my decision. To this day I remember VIVIDLY flying into San Francisco on a cold, dark and raining morning in January with my parents. I remember driving up to 1400 Lincoln Drive with a sincere feeling of utter fear and dread that I had just sentenced myself to a year of “ex-gay” hell! I can still see my parents driving away as I stood on the drive way waving goodbye in the cold drizzling rain with a tennis ball sized knot in my throat and tears burning in my eyes. Little did I know, at that point, how valid and warranted those first thoughts and feelings would be.

    As that year trudged on, I, along with the rest of my fellow Steps Out members were subjected to Peer Therapy (this form of therapy was replaced with Reparative Therapy upon there relocation to Memphis, TN at the end of my program year in accordance with the then acting Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church.) I among other program members bought into the lies and gross myths that were being used to essentially brainwash each of us. That was honestly the most draining and difficult year of my entire life. I was put “on level” two times for “boundary” issues with one other program member.

    Upon completion of my year, I learned more about myself than I had ever up to that point. Of course, I had not conquered any of my homosexual “struggles” nor had I gained “freedom” of my Emotional Dependency. I could have easily continued for another year in the “Steps Further” program but opted to go home as LIA was relocating to Tennessee concluding my first year. I had NO desire or calling to move to there. Incidentally, the decision to not go on was GREATLY invalidated by my house leaders and Program staff…. I simply didn’t care anymore. I wanted to be back in Phoenix Arizona where I belonged.

    Well, as anyone who has attended these live-in therapy programs know how INTENSE they are. Coming home I experienced such an amazing shell shock trying to cope with “the real world”. The fallout was devastating. Most influentially damaging was the rejection my home church bestowed upon me. I could see and hear the doubt they had regarding my “healing” behind their eyes and in their voices. This went on for about another year after my return until I had ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I moved to a neighboring city and stopped attending church. I took several months consuming myself researching Pro-Gay theology. It was then that I TRULY felt “born again”. I came into such a peace and understanding about my sexuality that I had never experienced before. I knew and STILL know that being a gay male is NOT a sin, nor an abomination to Christ. I have had the sheer joy of living my life as a guilt free homosexual now for nine years. I still love the Lord, though I am adamantly against organized religion.

    Now, regarding the story Zach Stark; I am appalled and deeply alarmed at what I have learned in regards to the way LIA now operates it’s programs. Although there are some obvious similarities to how LIA operated in CA, the program they now offer and the current “rules and regulations” are WORLDS apart. This is a very corrupt thing going on here. The stringency they now enforce is ASTOUNDING and quite scary!

    I, along with millions other at this point, read the email detailing the Refuge Program rules on Zach’s blog. Had you been in the same room as I read through each one, you would have seen how outraged and disgusted I was. Coincidentally, I read that “clients” for BOTH programs are strictly forbidden to keep any kind of journal. When I was going through the program, it was REQUIRED for us to keep a daily journal. I am currently working with an Editor to have my Journal entries published into a book, detailing the pain, hardship, and damaging affects these programs have. To this very day, it is very draining to go through and re-read them. However, I will be approaching this project as a sort of: “Confessions of an XX-Homo”, if you will. I see how important this is now than ever.

    Peterson, I am so pleased to know that you are using your talents to spread the message exposing the lies and dangers this fundamentalist organization. Reading some of the excerpts from your play and personal entries, I chuckled warmly. I literally could relate and imagine on the same level all the things you experienced. Thank you for being another survivor who is OUT THERE doing something proactive to shed light on this grossly prevaricate message that is “ex-gay ministries”. I also actively come out against the false teachings of man-made doctrine surrounding homosexuality through music as a successful, professional Electronic musician.

    To wrap up this terribly long winded post, I just wanted to reiterate the importance for those of us who experienced these deceptions to come against and challenge organizations such as Love in Action. WE ARE the survivors. WE ARE the true stories! Young men and woman like Zach shouldn’t have to be offered these programs as an option/alternative. The only option any GLBT individual needs is to accept that we are who we are, and no amount of repair from this “non-addiction” (lol) in neither required or desired!

    Yours,

    Xoxox
    Steven B.
    X/X Gay!

  3. abbyladybug on July 14, 2005 at 1:33 pm Reply

    People comment that they wouldn’t mind if people were gay, just as long as they didn’t broadcast it. It’s people like Zach’s dad that make there be a reason to broadcast. You aren’t running around saying, “I’m gay,” for no reason. You’re running around saying, “I’m gay,” because it’s the truth. It’s like The Emperor’s New Clothes. The world is trying to tell you that you aren’t what you are, so you have to get a little louder so you can be heard. Then you’re accused of “throwing it in their faces.” WTF?! It’s so messed up.

    The pathology resides within people like Zach’s dad and John Smid, who have made what should be a non-issue into an issue. It’s like these people who clearly have their own issues. It’s called projection, and it’s very, VERY fucked up.

  4. Peterson Toscano on July 14, 2005 at 3:21 pm Reply

    Steven,
    Thank you for taking the time to share your story. I always feel encouraged meeting other survivors.

    The program changed drastically when it moved to Memphis. When Frank and Anita Worthen ran the program, I heard that there was a sense of support and compassion. Once John Smid took over he adopted the rules and practices of a Christian drug/alcohol program for youth called “Second Chance”. Jay Stone and Mike Haley came from the CA program to help staff the Memphis program. I was always touched by their warmth and humanity, but as the program changed they left along with most of the board members.

    By the time I arrived on July 13, 1996 (yes, it was my LIA anniversary yesterday), the rules were very much like they are today. They became more and more severe as time went on.

    Then they started hiring straight people to help teach us queers. On staff member in particular grew up in a home where his dad came out as gay. As a teenager this staff member struggled with his father’s same sex attractions, the separation and divorce. And now he helps run LIA. Seems like a conflict of interests to me; I never felt safe around this staff member.

    Now in the adult program they let in all sorts of people with very serious sexual addictions and fetishes. That only serves to deepen the sense of shame for the folks with same sex attractions because they get the message that they are just as bad as someone invovled in bestiality.

    Steven, I am so glad you survived and that you have a journal of that time there. That is a time capsule that once opened will shed light and truth onto this place. And to think the program got even more severe and abusive after you left! Could you have imagined it?

    So glad you survived and very pleased you shared your story here.

    I do have a section on my web site where I discuss overcoming the “ex-gay” movement. There listed are other survivor stories and a link where anyone can submit their story.
    http://www.homonomo.com/howisurvived.html

    Thanks again.
    Peterson

  5. Peterson Toscano on July 14, 2005 at 3:23 pm Reply

    Abby, you make an excellent point (as always, and with such little sleep too!)

    Where is the focusing on the family? Where is the truth telling? Sounds like some folks are bearing false witness against their neighbors. That’s one of the 10 commandments, isn’t it? I imagine that should be a big deal for Christian folk.

  6. Steven S. Bakos on July 14, 2005 at 5:22 pm Reply

    Peterson,

    Thanks so much for the link! That is awesome! 🙂

    To clarify though, When I was in the program, John Smid had already taken over LIA, and it was obvious that the beginings of Smiddy’s new therapy preferences were starting to bleed through. Frank and Anita at that point were just occasional speakers for classes we were required to attend. However, I totally agree with you in regards to the compassion they had. I still hold the two of them in High regards.

    I knew Mike and Jay very well. Jay took me under his wing when I was there. A lot of the staff did and I think that had to do with my age. I’m aslo glad to hear the both of them had enough sense to leave LIA after John revamped the program into what it has become today. I did a little investigation about 2 years ago and discovered that out of all the Steps Out members I went through tthe program with, all but 2 continued down the “ex-gay” path. That makes me VERY encouraged 🙂

    LOL! Here is a picture I found recently of of JOhn and I at Rodeo Beach during one of our many outings around Northern, CA!
    http://www.pacificmile.com/Pics1/smid_me.jpg

    Much Love,

    Steven

  7. Ol Cranky on July 16, 2005 at 7:13 pm Reply

    NY Times has picked up the story (including some quotes from EJ Freidman) and it’s been blogged by Pam Spaulding, Terance and me already (Pam and I honed in on 2 different Smid statements in the article y’all may find interesting).

    I’ve written to the head actuary in the insurance division of the state of TN. If I can find the email address of the reporter at the NY Times, I may suggest a follow up regarding the insurance issue. I’d write a letter to the editor referencing it, but I’m still blogging anonymously and have been very clear what I’m doing on my blog.

  8. Peterson Toscano on July 17, 2005 at 3:07 pm Reply

    Ol Cranky, I’ll pass that info along. Hopefully something will come of it.
    Salon.com just did a piece too, but I have not seen it yet.
    P

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